How to Stay Engaged in Difficult Situations: The BOAT Process

Here’s a simple four-step process that can help you get engaged. It’s called BOAT (Breathe, Observe, Accept, Think) because it can keep you afloat during turbulent times and help prevent you from sinking into the energy draining patterns of resistance. The BOAT process can be used during times of duress and throughout the day to keep yourself on-board, so to speak, so you don’t feel washed out when it’s time to go home.

1. Breathe

While keeping your spine upright, breathe deeply and slowly. Expand your belly as you breathe in. Relax your belly as you breathe out. Breathing in such a way lowers your blood pressure, helps rid the body of toxins, strengthens your heart and lungs, improves digestion, and increases mental clarity. Make it a point to simply breathe fully and slowly throughout the day, especially during times of stress.

2. Observe

Keep breathing. Internally, observe any thoughts, images, emotions, and physical sensations that occur. In times of duress emotions or thoughts can seem overwhelming, as if they are the whole truth. Continue staying open to them and those thoughts and emotions will pass. Externally, observe what occurs separately from internal reactions. Picture a two-column list – the first for internal events, the second for external events. If you can, actually write this list out when things get stressful.

3. Accept

Keep breathing. Simply accept the truth of the moment, both external and internal events, as you observe them. If you are experiencing a deluge of negative thoughts and emotions, the following may be helpful:

Ask, objectively, “Is this true?” Take the stance of an independent investigator.

You could also start a list of positives – starting with something ridiculous like, “It’s a good thing that I am not being eaten by giant carnivorous watermelons right now” or something basic like, “Hey, I’m alive!” Keep going and list more positive things in your life. For this to work your sense of gratitude must be authentic. If you find that you are thinking you “should” be grateful, pause for a moment and see if you can think of something for which you actually are grateful. If this doesn’t work, try a different strategy.  There is no sense beating yourself up with gratitude.

It often helps to move your body if you are struggling with acceptance or having trouble thinking. Lots of people have sitting jobs. Movement can help create mental flexibility while improving health and well-being. It counteracts the stagnation of sitting.

Now, try accepting the truth of the moment again.

4. Think

Keep breathing. What is the most powerful thing to do in this moment? The answer will vary depending on your circumstances. Once you have accepted the situation you can consider what to do next. Use the GROW process (below) to arrive at your best approach.

The GROW process has four steps:

  1. Goal. What is it you’re trying to accomplish?
  2. Reality. What are the realities, both advantages and barriers, that are present?
  3. Options. List out some ideas regarding how you might accomplish what you need to do. How can you use your Signature Strengths and The Seven Elements to make the solution as meaningful, energizing, and effective as possible?
  4. Way forward. Choose the best option and do it.